When Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, Chumby co-founder and author of Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering, saw Japan devastated by last year's earthquake and tsunami, he decided to help by designing a stylish radiation monitor that could be used by normal humans, unlike the bulky instruments available today. He details the design process on his blog, from the very beginnings of the project as he partnered with Safecast, to his movement through several different design approaches. Original sketches called for a smaller, compact device with an incorporated flashlight, but the necessity of certain Geiger tubes drove things in different directions, including an all-white design that displayed influences from Wall-E's Eve, to the final black model with an OLED screen.
The intent, he says, was to create a product that people will carry around with them on a daily basis, providing baseline radiation data so as to better contextualize any abnormal readings should tragedy strike again. Using design to tackle the matter of usability seems intuitive when it comes to consumer electronics, but it's a welcome change in approach in devices of this type — especially considering the potential ramifications. Having successfully overseen the meter through a hardware prototype, he's now open-sourced the project and made the files available on his website so hardware manufacturers can take his creation and make it a viable reality.